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InTouch:  UNC Employee Forum News
Volume 6, Number 7 September 2005

From the Chair, Tommy Griffin…
The Plan is Not Dead

Hello, friends.  Here we are approaching fall after a long hot summer that is not willing to give up its hold on hot muggy days.  That is what we all need to do as university and state employees:  not give up on issues that affect us every day.  We need to continue to work together on the issues and make plans for our future.  We have made some progress this year:  We have seen the minimum state salary rise to $20,112, and the University has gone one step further and raised the minimum to $20,800.  We can thank Chancellor Moeser and all his support staff for their efforts in making this happen.  We were given an extra 40 hours of bonus time.  Save that time until you retire, and it will be worth a lot more to you then.  We were also given an $850 or 2% pay raise, whichever was greater.  I know this wasn’t enough, but we will continue to work on doing better for next year.


There was a lot of hard work done and many long hours were spent on developing a health insurance plan for the UNC system.  This did not work out like we wanted, but the plan is not dead.  The new Director of the State Health Insurance Plan is looking at ways to help improve the State’s plan.  We still have some support in the General Assembly for the plan that was put together by the UNC System, and we will not give up trying.  I want to give President Molly Broad special thanks for supporting this initiative.  I also want to thank Laurie Charest, Katherine Graves, Leslie Winters, and all the rest of the Committee for all their hard work and efforts on behalf of all University employees to improve our health insurance and lower the cost of our health care.


Every month I attend many meetings, and the two most important ones are the monthly Forum meetings and the meetings that we have with Provost Robert Shelton, Vice Chancellor Nancy Suttenfield, and Associate Vice Chancellor Laurie Charest.  There have been many issues brought up at these meetings.  Answers were found for the majority of theses issues, and we are still continuing to work on the rest.  I want to thank them for their continued support and all their efforts to help everyone here on campus.


I want to thank all the staff, faculty, and students for their support and hard work to keep us the number one public University in the nation, and also I want to thank all the citizens of North Carolina for their support.  Without all of us working together there would be no University of North Carolina System.

BREAKING:  At a meeting today with President Molly Broad and the leaders of staff organizations of the other fifteen University System campuses, it was announced that Erskine Bowles would be officially introduced as the next System President next week.  Congratulations to President-Select Bowles and our best wishes to President Broad as she approaches her retirement.

Chancellor’s Office Renews Commitment to Flexible Work Schedules and Mass Transit Options

In the wake of the sharp increase in gas prices caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Employee Forum passed a resolution during its September 7th meeting urging the Chancellor’s Office to form a task force that would recommend ways to help University employees manage the high cost of commuting.


One day later, Chancellor James Moeser sent out a message saying that the Advisory Committee on Transportation would be looking at how to make commuting alternatives such as the use of busses, vanpools and carpools more readily available to employees.  He also urged all University managers to allow employees to use alternative schedules and telecommuting wherever possible, as long as the service needs of the University continued to be met.


At the same time, other communications imposed restrictions on the use of campus vehicles due to gasoline supply shortages.  Fortunately, the fuel supply situation has now eased and campus travel restrictions have been officially lifted.


However, the cost of commuting for employees remains very high.  In response, the University continues to urge employees to use mass transit alternatives where possible.  To accommodate mass transit schedules and to meet the needs of employees who have no good mass transit options, the University continues to urge its managers to allow alternative schedules and telecommuting.


Nancy Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations, explained that the University’s active support for alternative working arrangements for employees has not changed.  “The University has supported flexible work schedules since before the recent rise in gas prices,” Davis said.  “The Chancellor has not rescinded that email and does not plan to do so.”


Managers and employees wishing to know more about how to arrange flexible work schedules can contact their Human Resources Generalist or contact the Human Resources office at 962-1554 for more information.


Employees wanting more information about mass transit options for commuting to work can call the Transportation office at 962-8100, email them at,  or visit their web site at

Alty Proposes Team Cleaning at UNC

In August, Facilities Services Director Jim Alty spoke to the Forum and also had meetings with all of the UNC housekeeping staff to talk about his desire to shift the University’s housekeeping service to the OS1 team cleaning model.  He plans to run a pilot for the plan in the Bioinformatics building and hopes subsequently to roll it out to the rest of the campus.   Under the current zone cleaning model, a housekeeper is responsible for a building or a part of a building.  Under the OS1 model, housekeepers would work in groups of four “specialists” in vacuuming, bathrooms, public areas, and “light duties.”  Each housekeeper would be trained in a “specialty” and would perform that one task only, with the specialties being rotated periodically, perhaps every three months.

Alty said that OS1 has resulted in improved safety records and provided data from one OS1 organization that showed substantial improvements.  He also said that OS1 training results in buildings being cleaner and that employees prefer the system once they try it.  In addition, Alty pointed out that the new system calls for team leaders, and that the team leader position provides a previously missing link in the career path from housekeeper to housekeeping supervisor.  Other advantages Alty mentioned were the use of “green” cleaning products and ergonomically superior equipment.

Critics are concerned that OS1 dehumanizes the housekeepers, pushing them to work for months at the same boring task.  They are concerned that using a backpack vacuum for an eight hour shift, even with proper training, might cause physical injuries to employees.  They also suggest that OS1 is a way of squeezing more work out of housekeepers so the University can get more area cleaned with a smaller number of workers.  In addition, critics have pointed out that adding team leader positions, using green products, and shifting to better equipment are not dependant on using the OS1 system.  A more detailed criticism is given in an opinion piece below.

Save Money with NC Flex

Times are tough, and health care costs a lot of money.  You can save a bundle by using NCFlex, which allows you to pay your health care costs in pretax dollars, using a health care spending account.  It is simple to use.

First, add up the health expenses you know you will have during the year, for example, prescription drugs, dentist appointments, new glasses, or any other medical expenses you know you will not be able to avoid next year.  Then sign up for NCFlex, and have enough money withheld to cover those expenses.  Since you are paying in pretax dollars, the amount your check is reduced is considerably less than the amount that is put into your spending account.

Then when you get medical treatment, save the receipts and any Explanation of Benefits (EOB) forms you get from the State Health Plan, fill in the NCFlex claim form, and mail in the form, along with copies of the receipts and EOB forms.  They will mail you a check or, if you use direct deposit for your paycheck, they will deposit it in your bank account.

Even folks in the lowest tax brackets can save money with NCFlex.  That is because you do not pay Social Security or Medicare tax on the NCFlex dollars, so the least you can save with NCFlex is 7.5%.  This is a way to beat the taxman legally, so don’t miss out!

Some important points with regard to NC Flex this year:
The limit on contribution to the health care account is $4200 for 2006.

The enrollment period ends November 4.
You must use the Enrollment Form included in your 2006 Flex packet.
You can use Flex money for over-the-counter drugs.
For more information see or call the plan administrator, Aon Consulting, at 1-800-726-3221.

Employee Appreciation Week

It’s almost here!  The 2005 Employee Appreciation Event will run October 10-14.  This year’s focus is on health and wellness, and there will be activities every day that week.  Some of the events planned include an introduction to campus fitness centers, a cooking competition, and a campus walking tour.  There’s bound to be an event just outside your door, so check the Human Resources website for more information.

Forum Campaign for a Living Wage

The Employee Forum approved a resolution at its September meeting committing the Forum to work for a living wage for all State Employees.  Previously, Forum delegates met with Sorien Schmidt of the NC Justice Center to discuss the problems of working people and particularly State Employees and how they relate to a living wage.  Now, the Forum will begin a communications campaign to inform decisionmakers about the problems facing State Employees and the need to pay a living wage to everyone.

Opinion:  OS1 Team Cleaning Unsuited for Carolina

The August 3rd Employee Forum meeting voted unanimously to support the housekeeper’s efforts to obtain information from Mr. Alty, the Facilities Services Director, about the much rumored implementation of a new cleaning system called “Team Cleaning.”

Housekeepers wanted the information so they would be able to formulate informed and critical questions before the meetings Alty had scheduled the following week to sell them his grand idea.  Mr. Alty provided no information prior to their meeting.  The housekeepers were subjected to what amounted to a sales pitch from Mr. Alty, Housekeeping Director Bill Burston, and John Walker, the owner of “ManageMen”tm, the owner of the OS1tm system.

Mr. Alty claims the new system is a better way of working and is needed in response to poor results from a “customer” satisfaction survey of housekeeping services.

He has chosen to set in train a predetermined plan to install a system that re introduces the ‘Time and Motion’ man to campus.  A stopwatch is not required because ‘ManageMen tm has already figured out all the cleaning times, with a booklet containing 447 different timings for 447 different cleaning tasks timed to 1/ 10th of a second.

The plan harks back to the epoch of “scientific management,” beginning in American factories in the 1880s.  This approach to organizing work was subsequently thoroughly discredited by social scientists and has since fallen into disuse. (1)

Anyone who has worked in the textile industry may remember the term “stretch out”.  This was the term mill workers used for management’s attempts to constantly speed up and increase the amount of work required from workers once the dreaded time and motion man had studied how they worked.

On two occasions when a time and motion man came to Erwin Mills in Durham, workers were adamant “they didn’t want to be studied” and threw him out the window.

Sam Finely of Gastonia working at Loray Mills said, “They figured out exactly how long it took you to tie that thread and start the loom up.  They figured it right down to the tick of that stopwatch”. (2)  The same approach underpins Team Cleaning.

Mr. Alty seems determined to impose the OS1tm system he used at his previous job at the University of Texas at Austin.

The actual root of the perceived problem in delivering housekeeping services seems to elude Mr. Alty and Mr. Burston though it is probably very familiar to many university employees.

The problems in housekeeping arise from inadequate staffing levels, increased workloads, and poor supervisor training, a problem especially acute for SPA maintenance and skilled trades’ employees, but recognized by many other employees across campus.

In 1994 there were 1,189 employees maintaining 5,958 Sq ft per employee.  By 2002 there were 1,056 employees maintaining 7,597 Sq ft per employee, according to figures from HR. (3)  Is it any wonder that some buildings do not receive the level of cleaning and maintenance they used to receive?

At a OS1tm (Team Cleaning) symposium in 2002 where Mr. Alty was “amongst friends” and was a featured speaker, a speaker from the University of New Mexico detailed how using this system she was able to realize a saving of 5% in labor costs by the elimination of eight fulltime positions;  she anticipated additional labor savings of 7% due to unfilled positions. (4)

While Mr. Alty has said the OS1tm system will not lead to any staff cuts, it would appear that one of its perceived virtues is the ability to do more with less.  Indeed Mr. Burston seems to have recognized this potential early on.  An undated “Team Cleaning ReportV (5) presumably authored by Mr. Burston notes the advantages of the OS1tm system as being, “we will use less people than Zone Cleaning” and “Great if budget has been cut to a point that the job cannot be done as is.”

The report also lists some of the disadvantages of converting to the OS1 tm system, pointing out that housekeeping “converted to Zone Management less than seven years ago.  We would have to go back and resurrect the same or similar job titles that were trashed six plus years ago.”  The report goes on to say, “More than likely employee positions will be lost by the end of the conversion”. (ibid)

An unsigned report of a visit to the University of Texas at Austin in February 2005 noted supervisors there were “most bothered by the amount of paperwork put on them” noting “supervisors have to be at work approximately one hour before shift starts and remain after to get things ready for the next shifts start.”  Questioning how often supervisors get out to inspect work, the report comments “not often because there was so much demand on their time for paperwork and other things” (6)

A March 2005 memo from Mr. Burston to Mr. Alty is also worth quoting at length.  In the memo Mr. Burston recommended against converting to team cleaning, claiming, ” what we have now works”, and going on to say of the OS1 tm system “This is a philosophy that can be used later if our budget gets to the point that we need to make major changes in how we do our business.  We still have room to adjust to future budget cuts when and if they come.  Every one is not overwhelmed with work at present”. (7)

As debatable as Burston’s statement is, it is not as puzzling as his subsequent Paulian conversion, presumably somewhere on the road to the University of Texas at Austin.

In June 05 in a five-line memo Burston informs Mr. Alty he has “reconsidered my recommendation”. (8)  Perhaps it was the answer from Sharon Burleson, Mr. Alty’s colleague at the University of Texas at Austin, that converted him.  When asked what custodians thought of Team Cleaning, she claimed “they love it” and “they are not too tired”. (9)

I think the university community will need a lot more convincing that this system is anything more than an attempt to get more work for the same money out of housekeepers and a way of avoiding increasing staffing levels to match campus growth.

While this system might be more efficient for Mr. Alty’s budget, if it is at the cost of dehumanizing housekeepers’ work, increasing their work loads, and assigning one person to clean urinals for eight hours a day for the sake of efficiency, then it’s a system unsuited to an institution that aspires to be the leading public university.

We need more housekeepers, not a system that “transforms cleaning operations into precision machines” (10) by reducing our housekeepers to mere cogs in a machine.

David Brannigan, Division II Delegate, Chairperson of the Employee Forum Personnel Issues Committee



  1. Prof Judith Blau, University of North Carolina, 2005.
  2. Like a Family, The Making Of A Southern Cotton Mill World,
  3. pg 208, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, James Leloudis, et al UNC Press 1987.
  4. UNC-CH University Faculty and Staff Profile and Trends 1/21/04
  5. Mary Vosevich, Associate Director Environmental Services University of New Mexico, OS1 Users Symposium PowerPoint Presentation, Seattle, 2002.
  6. Team Cleaning Report provided to the Forum by Mr. Alty as per Forum resolution # 05 08 August 3005
  7. Visit Report to University of Texas at Austin Feb 17th 18th 05 provided to the Forum by Mr. Alty as per Forum resolution # 05 08 August 2005
  8. Memorandum to Jim Alty from Bill Burston, Subject: Team Cleaning, March 1st 05., provided to the Forum by Mr. Alty as per Forum resolution # 05 08 August 2005.
  9. Memorandum to Jim Alty from Bill Burston, Subject: Amended Team Cleaning Recommendation, June 16th 2005, provided to the Forum by Mr. Alty as per Forum resolution # 05 08 August 2005.
  10. Sharon Burleson, University Of Texas at Austin Team Cleaning Research Questions provided to the Forum by Mr. Alty as per Forum resolution # 05 08 August 2005.
  11. ManageMen tm Web site